This mini cranberry white forest cake is a winter wonderland - and the perfect small serving size! It features layers of soft and airy vanilla cake, homemade cranberry sauce, and whipped white chocolate ganache. Use the cake scraps to also make some adorable pinecone decorations for the top!
what makes this cranberry white forest cake so good?
- mini serving size
- cranberry + white chocolate + vanilla flavor combo is HEAVEN!
- cute little pinecone decorations made from the cake scraps
- easier cake made using the reverse creaming method!
reverse creaming method
One of my favorite techniques for making cakes. The reverse creaming method makes for an easier and more fail-proof bake!
While the classic method for making a butter cake batter involves creaming butter with sugar and building the batter off of that base, the reverse creaming method sees the butter mashed directly into the dry ingredients (kind of like how pie dough is made!)
The reverse creaming method gives you a cake with a denser crumb, that's still perfectly light, rich, and moist! It tastes like a bakery made cake, but is surprisingly easy and quick to whip up at home (with just 3 steps to make the batter!)
how to make cranberry white forest cake
Make the cranberry sauce:
1. Combine cranberries and sugar in a saucepot.
2. Cook until the cranberries have burst and softened.
3. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to cranberry mixture. Cook until thickened.
4. Cool the cranberry sauce completely to room temperature before using.
Make the cake layers:
1. Cut butter into dry ingredients. The butter should be very fine (like the photo below).
2. Whisk wet ingredients in a separate bowl until well combined.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the butter / flour mix. Whisk until well combined. A few clumps are totally fine! Just make sure to work out any of the dry streaks.
4. Divide the batter into your cake pans.
5. Bake and cool. Let the cakes cool COMPLETELY to room temperature before frosting. Shave off any domed parts of the cake so you have flat, even layers.
6. (Optional): If you want to make the little pinecone decorations for the top of your cake, save the shaved off cake scraps to make cake pop pinecones! If your cake didn't dome in the oven, you can just cut an even bit off of the tops of each cake layer. You'll need about 1 cup of crumbled up cake for the decorations.
Make the whipped white chocolate ganache:
1. Melt together ganache ingredients.
2. Set aside to cool completely in the fridge.
3. Whip until it reaches stiff peaks.
Fill & decorate the cake:
1. Lay 1 cake layer on your serving plate, and spread a thin layer of the whipped ganache on top.
2. Pipe a little border of frosting all around the rim of the cake. This helps keep the cranberry sauce in place.
I don't have any photos of this cake with the frosting border piped on, but you can see a visual idea of what it looks like in the photo below from my apple pie layer cake! It's the same idea.
3. Fill the cake with the cooled cranberry sauce. Spread it out until it reaches the frosting border.
4. Lay the second layer of cake on top, and frost the outside of the cake with the remaining frosting. You can stop here and serve the cake as is - or make the pinecone decorations for the top of the cake!
how to make cute little pinecone decorations
Edible pinecones have basically taken over social media (and shoutout to my cousin for getting me to make some as cake decorations!) There are so many different variations out there for how to make the actual pinecones - my take uses some scraps from this same cake, a bit of milk, and some almonds and chocolate for the detailing!
First step is to make the cake pop: Shave the tops off your cooled cakes. How much cake scraps you get out of them depends on how much the cakes domed in the oven. If they didn't dome at all, I would just cut an even bit off the top of each cake to get the cake scraps. Or another option would be to make Oreo balls and shape them like pinecones!
Crumble up the cake scraps as fine as you can get them.
Next, it's time to make the cake pop mixture! A good rule of thumb is that for every ½ cup of cake scraps you have, you'll need about 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk. Start with less milk, and if needed, you can add more until it sticks together.
Most cake pop recipes use frosting to bind the cake scraps together, but I find you can achieve the same result with just a splash of milk! Annnnd it's a lot easier.
Once the cake pop mixture is ready, scoop out a bit and roll into a oval shape with a pointed top (kind of resembling an ice cream cone). You can make varying sizes depending on how you want to decorate your cake!
Most bags of sliced almonds have some broken pieces, so pick out some unbroken bits and stick them into the sides of the cake pops pointing up slight to resemble pinecone scales (see above photo for visual)
Freeze the cake pops until solid. This makes it a whole lot easier to dip them in chocolate!
Dip the frozen cake pops in chocolate and place on a parchment lined plate or baking sheet. I find it's easiest to stick a toothpick into the bottom of the pinecone and use that to hold it to dip into the chocolate.
Freeze the chocolate dipped pinecones again until the chocolate has fully set. Use to decorate your frosted cake along with some sugared cranberries and rosemary if desired! Dust the tops with powdered sugar for a snowy top.
best chocolate for ganache
Good quality white chocolate really does make all the difference when making whipped ganache! It melts more smoothly and has a much better taste. The best chocolate for melting is anything labeled "Baker's" or "couverture" - it's usually sold in bars and found in the baking section of any grocery store.
Off-brand versions also make great alternatives that are nicer on the wallet! Avoid chocolate chips as they typically have a coating that helps them keep their shape (and makes them prone to clumping and seizing when melted).
- Measuring flour: You know I always have to include this memo! Scooping a measuring cup directly into the bag of flour is one of the most common baking mistakes - and it will pack extra weight worth of flour in, which can lead to dense and dry bakes! It's always important to measure flour by weight or (if using cups) by spoon and leveling.
- cutting the butter: Make sure the pieces of butter are VERY fine. It's the key to a perfectly airy and moist cake!
- mixing: Watch out for overmixing when you're making the cake batter and ganache. The cake batter should have some lumps in it - kind of like pancake batter! A perfectly smooth cake batter will lead to a dense and dry cake!
When it comes to the ganache, overwhipped ganache will get grainy and separate - so it's also super important to stop as soon as the ganache whips up to stiff peaks.
- cooling: Every component in this cake should be cooled before using! The cranberry sauce and cake layers need to be at room temperature or colder, and the ganache needs to be fridge level cold so it whips up properly!
- melting ganache ingredients: Melt the ganache ingredients on low, LOW heat. I know it's boring, but overheated chocolate can burn and seize!
cranberry white forest cake storage
Keep this cake covered and stored in your fridge until ready to serve. My favorite way to cover this cake is to just invert a bowl over it. Plastic wrap can wrinkle and mess up your decorations. You can also use a cake cover if you have one. If the cake is sliced, I would also press a piece of plastic wrap against any exposed cake to keep the interior soft and moist!
This cake will keep for about 5 days in the fridge. You can serve it cold, but I find the cake's texture is best if you let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes to soften slightly.
check out these other recipes!
Cranberry White Forest Cake Recipe
for the homemade cranberry sauce:
- 1 & ½ cups (165g) fresh cranberries, washed and drained (frozen also works!)
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cold water
for the white cake:
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons (75g) cubed unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (120mL) milk, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup (80g) sour cream, at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, or any neutral flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
for the whipped white chocolate ganache:
- 8 ounces (225g) good quality white chocolate, finely chopped *see notes
- ⅔ cup (160mL) heavy cream
- ¼ cup (½ stick / 60g) unsalted butter, cubed
for the pinecone decorations (optional):
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
- sliced almonds
- 6 ounces (170g) good quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- sugared cranberries (optional - for decorating)
make the cranberry sauce:
- In a medium saucepot, combine cranberries and sugar. Place onto a stove burner set to medium heat.1 & ½ cups (165g) fresh cranberries,, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberries have burst and soften. This will take around 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside off the heat.
- In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add the mixture to the cooked cranberries, and return to medium heat. Cook for another minute, stirring constantly, until thickened to a jam consistency.1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cold water
- Transfer the cooked cranberry sauce to a heat safe bowl, and set aside to cool completely to room temperature before using.
make the white cake layers:
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the bottoms and sides of 2 (6 inch) cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment rounds and lightly dust the sides with flour, tapping out any excess. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour,, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Add butter to the dry ingredients. Using a fork or your hands, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the pieces of butter are very fine and crumbly.5 tablespoons (75g) cubed unsalted butter,
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together remaining wet ingredients for the cake until combined.½ cup (120mL) milk,, ⅓ cup (80g) sour cream,, 3 large egg whites,, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil,, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Add the wet ingredients to the flour / butter mixture, and whisk together until you no longer see any streaks. The batter should be a bit clumpy - that's what makes for an extra tender cake!
- Divide the cake batter into your prepared cake pans and spread into an even layer. Bake in the center of your preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes for about 5 minutes in the pans, then turn onto a wire rack and set aside to cool completely to room temperature.
- (Optional) If you'd like to make pinecone cake decorations, shave off a bit of the cake layer tops and crumble into a bowl. You'll need about 1 cup of cake crumbs total. Set aside for later.
make the whipped white chocolate ganache:
- In a medium sized saucepot, combine chopped white chocolate, heavy cream, and butter. Heat on low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Take care not to overheat the mixture or it can seize up!8 ounces (225g) good quality white chocolate,, ⅔ cup (160mL) heavy cream, ¼ cup (½ stick / 60g) unsalted butter,
- Pour the melted ganache mixture into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the ganache (to prevent skin formation). Chill the ganache for about 1 to 2 hours in the fridge or until fully cold.
- Using an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the cold ganache on high speed until it reaches stiff peaks. Take care not to overwhip the ganache or it will seize up and become grainy!
assemble and decorate the cake:
- Lay one of the cooled cake layers onto your serving plate. Spread a thin layer of whipped ganache on top. Fill some of the ganache into a plastic bag or piping bag and cut the end off. Pipe a little frosting border along the rim of the cake (see above for visual).
- Spoon all of the cranberry sauce into the center of the cake and spread to the edge of the frosting border. Lay the second cake on top, then frost the outside with the remaining ganache.
- Keep your cake stored in the fridge while you work on the pinecone decorations.
make the pinecone decorations:
- Take the cake scraps from before and crumble them up as fine as you can get them. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and mix to combine. The cake crumbs should stick together if you squeeze them with your fingers. If they don't, add more milk until it does.2 to 4 tablespoons milk
- Scoop out some of the cake pop mixture and roll into a triangular shape (kind of like an ice cream cone). You can make varying sized pinecones if you'd like. I find for this cake, the perfect sized pinecone uses about 1 to 2 tablespoons of cake pop mix per cone.
- Wedge sliced almonds into the sides of the cake pops, pointing slightly upwards to resemble pinecone scales (see above photo for visual).sliced almonds
- Arrange cake pop balls on a parchment lined plate or baking sheet and freeze until solid (about 20 minutes).
- Dip the frozen cake pops in the melted chocolate to completely cover and tap off any excess chocolate. I find it's easiest to poke a toothpick into the bottom of the cake pop and use it as a little dipping handle!6 ounces (170g) good quality semi-sweet chocolate,
- Place the chocolate dipped cone back onto the parchment paper, and repeat with all the pinecones. Freeze again for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is set.
- Decorate the top of your cake with the pinecones and sugared cranberries and rosemary if desired! Slice and enjoy!